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Many pediatric nurses start out as hospital staff nurses or working in private physician’s offices, treating everything from minor injuries to chronic conditions such as asthma or diabetes. As they gain knowledge and experience, they can move up by focusing on a specialized area of pediatric care or advancing to supervisory positions. Some even perform a role similar to physicians, conducting diagnostic tests and prescribing medications.
Pediatric nurses sometimes move up the career ladder by gaining experience and training in a specific area of pediatric care. For example, they might focus on oncology, emergency medicine or research. Many hold board certification in these specialized areas through organizations such as the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation. Nurse researchers typically have at least a master’s degree and often a Ph.D. They create and monitor medical research projects, frequently documenting their findings in articles for industry journals.
After mastering the clinical side of providing care, pediatric nurses can move up to administrative positions such as charge nurse, nurse manager or unit manager. In these roles, they provide less hands-on care than staff nurses. Instead, they recruit and hire new employees and mentor or discipline current ones. They also make assignments, delegate tasks and oversee everything from departmental budgets to ordering supplies. In addition, they handle questions, concerns and complaints from patients and family members. If a parent thought the nursing staff wasn’t monitoring his child closely enough, for example, he’d bring his concern to the charge nurse or unit manager, who would investigate the claim and rectify the situation.
Some pediatric nurses oversee a patient’s entire treatment plan, coordinating care with other members of the health care team. Many of these nurse case managers work for home health agencies or government-funded social service programs. They not only provide direct care, they also collaborate with other caregivers such as physical therapists, counselors and anyone who can address the child’s physical, emotional and mental health needs. In addition, they connect children and their families with community and aid resources. If the child’s family needs financial assistance, for example, the case manager might help them apply for aid through a state or federal program.
Advanced Practice Nurse
With additional schooling, a pediatric nurse can take on a role similar to that of a physician. Pediatric nurse practitioners, considered advanced practice nurses, must complete a master’s degree in nursing and earn certification through a recognized credentialing organization. After this, they can order diagnostic testing and lab work, make a diagnosis and prescribe medication. They typically work alongside physicians at clinics or hospitals, collaborating with the child’s doctor to develop and adjust the treatment plan. Some, however, establish their own practices.